May 29, 2012

"Their policy is to take out high-value targets, versus capturing high-value targets..."

"They are not going to advertise that, but that’s what they are doing," says Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, "the top Republican on the intelligence committee," quoted 2/3 of the way down in a NYT article that forefronts Obama's professorly thoughtfulness as he takes responsibility for the "final moral calculation" in deciding whether to take advantage of an opportunity to kill somebody on the list al Qaeda kill list.
John B. Bellinger III, a top national security lawyer under the Bush administration, said that was because Mr. Obama’s liberal reputation and “softer packaging” have protected him. “After the global outrage over Guantánamo, it’s remarkable that the rest of the world has looked the other way while the Obama administration has conducted hundreds of drone strikes in several different countries, including killing at least some civilians,” said Mr. Bellinger, who supports the strikes.
The take-no-prisoners approach avoids dealing with the problems — which include, for Obama, political problems — of detention and interrogation. The NYT interviewed 3 dozen of Obama's "current and former advisers" and says:
They describe a paradoxical leader who shunned the legislative deal-making required to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, but approves lethal action without hand-wringing.
Is there really a paradox here? He has chosen not to close Guantanamo, but to make it a low-profile political issue by never sending anyone there, and to build his reputation as tough on terrorism by regularly blowing somebody away. The careful "moral calculation" in the individual cases isn't reexamining the general policy; it's about the risks of screwups:
“He realizes this isn’t science, this is judgments made off of, most of the time, human intelligence,” said [William M.] Daley, the former chief of staff. “The president accepts as a fact that a certain amount of screw-ups are going to happen, and to him, that calls for a more judicious process.”

58 comments:

ndspinelli said...

The book Hard Measures by the CIA officer in charge of IET is informative. You have to wade through a lot of bureaucratic horseshit however. This all drone approach is hurting our intelligence. Dead men tall no secrets of upcoming plots. There are w/o question people and networks we know nothing about that will bite us in the ass because of this expedient and cowardly approach. Thank you, Law Professor In Chief.

Scott M said...

HAL made some calculated decisions as well.

Bob Ellison said...

It fits in well with Robert Zubrin's thesis:

1) Humans are bad.

2) Torturing humans is also bad.

3) Capturing a human to torture him for information would be bad.

4) Just killing that human instead isn't bad, because it's consistent with (1) and (2).

Quayle said...

And just pray that you don't somehow end up on that list because your relatives will be wondering what happened to you and nobody that will tell them.

A dangerous and illegal operation run by only one branch of the government without public or judicial review.

And where, pray tell, are the morally superior lefties marching in the streets?

Where are the outraged Europeans?

The Drill SGT said...

Read the whole thing. It just reeked of LBJ sitting in the oval office picking targets around Hanoi "to send messages"

My favorite two para's illustrate they have no F'ing clue or solution beyong unicorn farts:

General Jones said the president and his aides had assumed that closing the prison was “a no-brainer — the United States will look good around the world.” The trouble was, he added, “nobody asked, ‘O.K., let’s assume it’s a good idea, how are you going to do this?’ “

It was not only Mr. Obama’s distaste for legislative backslapping and arm-twisting, but also part of a deeper pattern, said an administration official who has watched him closely: the president seemed to have “a sense that if he sketches a vision, it will happen — without his really having thought through the mechanism by which it will happen.”

Michael said...

There are a lot of bad guys in the target at this very moment. But the triggers will be pulled later, strategically nearer the election. There will be more than one. August. September. October. Bad guy a month.

Mitchell said...

The President cannot send anyone to Guantanamo, and keep it a secret, which is how we can tell there is not yet a fully-functional transporter beam.

Jay said...

a paradoxical leader who shunned the legislative deal-making required

And here I thought Obama was this cool guy who was post partisan and brought people together and stuff!

It is beyond comical he "shunned dealmaking" when his part was in power for 2 years too...

dbp said...

Killing people instead of capturing them just to prevent political damage is pure evil. Don't touch it!

ricpic said...

Obama will do anything to avoid the dreaded victory.

Matthew Sablan said...

"And where, pray tell, are the morally superior lefties marching in the streets?"

-- There are still a consistent few. There'll be an exceptionally consistent more than few in late January next year if the election goes a certain way.

Bender said...

deciding whether to take advantage of an opportunity to kill somebody

We are, and have been, in a state of war against al Qaeda. The decision to kill these people was made by Congress over ten years ago. No further "decision" or "approval" by Obama is needed.

Jay said...

Where is the outrage?

Mr. Obama has placed himself at the helm of a top secret “nominations” process to designate terrorists for kill or capture

He's the decider!

David said...

This was perfectly predictable during the Bush administration and, in fact, was predicted at the time. If you ignore precedent and the law of war to extend to enemy combatants the same (or similar) constitutional protections extended to criminal defendants, then you will make taking prisoners difficult, costly and politically damaging. If taking prisoners is difficult, costly and politically damaging, the administration won't take prisoners.

This demonstrates one of the primary reasons that judges make bad policy: they always overweight the facts of the case in front of them and ignore knock-on effects. Current prisoners are better off for being treated like criminals; the next guy, not so much.

Chip S. said...

...the president seemed to have “a sense that if he sketches a vision, it will happen — without his really having thought through the mechanism by which it will happen.”

Hey, it's probably the way he learned to play the Minuet in G.

Jay said...

Oh the NYT inflates his resume too:

Mr. Obama is the liberal law professor who campaigned against the Iraq war and torture

He was not a law professor!

Ironclad said...

The problem here too is that the threats requiring "action" are increasing because of the political boil in the middle east. Yemen is turning into another Somalia as the country splits between north and south - Shia and Sunni. Syria is going to spill over soon - its already started in Lebanon. And as more "Arab Spring" fruit ripens and governments become more "friendly" to the cause, there will be more strikes.

Guantanamo was always the least worst solution. At least you cage them up, you get some intelligence and you show that you are willing to do the job the hard way (with risks to capture).

Until someone starts attacking the ideology that drives these folks - this will go on. It is not going to come from within either because even the "moderates" cannot criticize without being labeled apostate.

No good solution here - but there are better ones than just drones.

Quayle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Moose said...

Obama gets what he wants. He's been used to either being given what he wants or working the system to get it. He's not prone to looking backward or, as the article stated, hand wringing.

It makes total sense that that he'd choose the path of greatest ROI by snuffing the bad guys rather than stressing on less morally ambiguous alternatives - like trying them.

I'm sure his strategy is playing well with joint chiefs, as its low risk high reward. The WH does not comment on drone ops, and generally doesn't claim credit for successful assainations either. The Generals don't have to risk assests other than drones, and killing people is always much more final than rendition and black prisions.

In many odd ways, Obama is the ultimate distillation of W, without the missteps and overly human gestures that W was known for. The press still write Obama a pass on Gitmo, foreign policy blunders and sentimental touches like acting human. They're quite happy with pool hustler as a president.

virgil xenophon said...

My man The Drill Sgt COULDN'T BE MORE WRONG! LBJ wasn't "sitting" ANYWHERE--he and McNamera were BOTH on the floor on their HANDS & KNEES around a map picking targets for the next days bombing missions up North.
(Halberstam: "The Best and the Brightest)

Get it straight, fella! :)

Iuconnu said...

Glenn Greenwald has this bastard and his dog at the Justice Department dead to rights. Have a look over at Salon. I couldn't make any of his numerous points any better than he does.

Quayle said...

The decision to kill these people was made by Congress over ten years ago. No further "decision" or "approval" by Obama is needed.

Except that 'these people' weren't named by congress where they.

And this list expands merely upon the whim of the president.

And this list now can include US citizens with no probable cause shown to an independent judiciary, and no trial by a jury of peers on the merits of the government's claims or suspicions

Which makes it an illegal operation.

Which makes it an impeachable offense.

And I don't care who is president or which part is in power.

Chip S. said...

He was not a law professor!

They said Professor Harold Hill wasn't really a professor, either, despite his mastery of the Think System.

Small-minded people are always so focused on mere facts, when the larger narrative is what really matters.

virgil xenophon said...

PS: Mitchell@8:41 wins the thread!

Big Mike said...

@David, you have summed it up perfectly.

Quayle said...

Boy, staring at pictures of Arabs and Middle-easterners really gives you a good sense of how nefarious they are.

What with all those beards and dark skin.

Joe said...

I agree with The Drill SGT; I immediately thought of LBJ.

Another similarity with LBJ is an almost antiseptic view of war. It is made worse by the belief that "precision" bombs are like a sniper's bullet.

I'm also struck at the conceit that the target lists the US has created are accurate. If nobody is being captured and interrogated, how the hell do we know who we should be targeting?

“a sense that if he sketches a vision, it will happen — without his really having thought through the mechanism by which it will happen.”

I've said before; Obama really believed his rhetoric about an imperial presidency and when he found that wasn't so, he's tried to rectify that. Unfortunately, presidents of all stripes suffer this to one degree or another (though Obama seems particularly bad--as in banana republic dictator bad--about it.)

Jay said...

From the just imagine if Bush had done it file:

It is also because Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.

So there you go.
Not only has Obama preserved three major policies — rendition, military commissions and indefinite detention - but he's redefining what is a civilian casualty while he's at it!

The Drill SGT said...

David said...If taking prisoners is difficult, costly and politically damaging, the administration won't take prisoners.

This operates now at the squad level, where taking prisoners creates huge risks. Far better to use a grenade than to try and talk a crazy out of a stone hovel.

Sergeant Phil Esterhaus: Hey, let's be careful out there.

traditionalguy said...

Have Drone Will Travel!

Barry seems to really like to be the ChiTown Godfather who calls all the shots on whom the Hired Soldiers whack next.

Consiglieri, bring me that latest list! Especially the teenage girls on it.

Now, why are thousands of Drones being secretly deployed all over America faster than the Manhattan Project could make its great new weapon?

edutcher said...

He gets away with it because he's a Lefty.

And he's "sort of God".

This still surprises people?

As for the assassination policy, I think the idea is to kill enough of Al Qaeda's top people so he can declare victory and shut down the war, just as he unilaterally withdrew from Iraq (the Iraqis were prepared to negotiate to keep us there) and he's trying to do in A-stan.

Bender said...

Except that 'these people' weren't named by congress where they.

Individual members of the Wehrmacht were not named either.

And thanks for totally missing the point, which was that Obama is claiming credit here for something that he really has no part in. The decision to kill or capture bin Laden was made in 2001. The decision to kill or capture any other member of al Qaeda was made in 2001. The only thing that Obama might now have to decide is whether to fire a missile in, or send troops to, a foreign country that is not already within the theater of operations, which is a separate question from whether to get these guys or not.

MaggotAtBroad&Wall said...

We are mostly being misled about the effectiveness of drone attacks.

We are asked to believe there are very few innocent people who are casualties from drone attacks.

But when Obama decided Baitullah Mehsud was a high value target that needed to be taken out, it took multiple attempts to get him. As a result, it's been estimated that between 207 and 321 other people, often innocent women and children, lost their life in Obama's pursuit of Mehsud.

http://www.iar-gwu.org/node/144

But then, Bush ordered three guys that masterminded 9/11 have their heads dunked in water.

bgates said...

a paradoxical leader who shunned the legislative deal-making required to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, but approves lethal action without hand-wringing

He refuses to deal with the legislative branch, while consolidating power in the executive.

Paradoxical.

Joe said...

Except that 'these people' weren't named by congress where they.

You are aware that Obama has implemented a policy whereby drone targets no longer have to be named; they only have to be suspicious. This is a truly vile policy. (The lack of attention by Congress makes them moral cowards.)

Tully said...

"As foretold in the prophecy."

Seriously, I was pointing out years ago that this was the logical result of trying to extend the Bill of Rights to the field of war as far as intel captures went. Make it difficult and dangerous for our people to capture and interrogate intel sources, and the logical response is that they will simply kill them instead. Less baggage that way.

PatCA said...

Obama knows the media will cover for him on the drones. Isn't it strange that we have not bombed one single "wedding party" since He was elected?

Out of sight, out of mind -- and if you don't like it, I'll send them to Gitmo!

Rabel said...

"But the control he exercises also appears to reflect Mr. Obama’s striking self-confidence: he believes, according to several people who have worked closely with him, that his own judgment should be brought to bear on strikes."

And maybe he likes the power.

Kirk Parker said...

Can anyone name the "top national security lawyers" we had in WWII?

Hagar said...

I do not like un-named individuals in our government being able to authorize drone strikes on individuals - also un-named - around the world.

Besides the moral implications, it must then also be all right for other governments, or for that matter - NGO's - to do the same, including within this country.

How long will it be before it comes to light that a drone strike was authorized against a person who was not al Qaeda, or anything like it, but merely a personal threat to the career of the person or organization authorizing these strikes? Say, someone who knew what "Fast and Furious" really was about? Or a competitor drug trafficker?

This program is not merely immoral, but very stupid and is likely to backfire in a big way.

KenK said...

Obama is doing the right thing. Killing your enemies is how you win in war. Boo hoo for their families. Look at this way; they'll all be together in heaven watching daddy deflower all those virgins and etc.

ndspinelli said...

KenK, Just as important, if not more so, is gathering intelligence from your enemies. That's how we won WW2. Read some books!

wyo sis said...

Being smart is the way to win wars. Starting wars you can't win isn't very smart, and fighting them with no will to win is even less smart.

traditionalguy said...

ndspinelli...In WWII the Signals Intelligence interceptions was 95% of the operable intelligence. Just like we do it today.

Ask Admiral Nagumo what hit his 4 carriers.

Ask the German submariners what gave away their locations.

Ask the Wermacht why the Allies always knew where they would attack next.

Scott M said...

Ask Admiral Nagumo what hit his 4 carriers.

Ask the German submariners what gave away their locations.

Ask the Wermacht why the Allies always knew where they would attack next.


Time-traveling human intelligence.

ndspinelli said...

Read Agent Zig Zag[WW2] and Hard Measures[Current]. Personal intellignce is key. Ask any intelligence officer. Intercepts are also important but human intelligence will always be the Holy Grail. Always.

ndspinelli said...

Plus, You do realize that bin Laden communicated strictly via HUMAN courier, as do other terrorist kingpins. Most of them learned via Pablo Escobar that those cell phones will kill ya! The interrogations got us the courier, the courier got us bin Laden. Intercepts played virtually no part. Those are the facts.

ndspinelli said...

Like old generals, it seems like some of you guys are fighting the last millenium's wars; and you don't really understand them either.

pm317 said...

He is a coward!

Cedarford said...

Quayle said...
And just pray that you don't somehow end up on that list because your relatives will be wondering what happened to you and nobody that will tell them.

A dangerous and illegal operation run by only one branch of the government without public or judicial review.

================
Dumb slippery slope argument. The decision to war against Al Qaeda Islamoids was made in 2001.
The Executive impliments the war, not the "public" nor "lawyers who review each and every action".

I believe there was zero concern that FDR and Truman bombing German and Jap targets would lead to them inevitably bombing Americans in American cities unless each enemy target was subject to public and judicial review and court approval.

And we didn't consider enemy citizenship relevant - people fighting with the Axis who had Korean, Spanish, American, French, Romanian, dual US-Italian citizenship were taken out with no hesitation.

The only thing that should distinguish how we deal with Americans in league with the Islamoid enemy and in open war against us is to note they are traitors as well as enemy.

Anthony said...

Dead men tell no tales. Butthey also file no habeus petitions.

Q said...

John B. Bellinger III, a top national security lawyer under the Bush administration, said that was because Mr. Obama’s liberal reputation and “softer packaging” have protected him.



What's protected him is the fact that his allies in the media, who focused obsessively on the question of whether Bush was staying within the letter and spirit of the law, show zero interest in Obama's conduct in the WOT except insofar as that conduct can be used to assist his re-election effort.

The only reason this story is in the news at all is because the administration (or "the regime" as liberals called it when Bush was in office) want it to be in the news. They figure the story can be used to prop up Obama's sagging poll numbers.

Q said...

I was pointing out years ago that this was the logical result of trying to extend the Bill of Rights to the field of war as far as intel captures went. Make it difficult and dangerous for our people to capture and interrogate intel sources, and the logical response is that they will simply kill them instead



That's a common point of view, but I don't see the logic behind it. If the Bill of Rights makes it difficult to capture and interrogate people, how can that same Bill of Rights permit killing those same people?

No, it is "easy" to carry out these drone strikes because Obama is the President and he has the full and committed support of the nations chattering classes. If Romney takes office next January this same project will be subject to much more hostile scrutiny. Logic doesn't factor into it.

Robert Cook said...

http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/05/29/the-nyts-love-letter-to-death-squads/

Obama is a murderer.

Rabel said...

Great link from Robert Cook.

A Disturbance in the Force

So good to see progressives and conservatives coming together.

pm317 said...

Will the Norwegians want his Nobel Peace Prize back for this extra-judicial killings and as another blogger wrote, for continuing Bush's policies?

Robert Cook said...

"Will the Norwegians want his Nobel Peace Prize back for this extra-judicial killings and as another blogger wrote, for continuing Bush's policies?"

If the Norwegians want to polish up their tarnished public image, they'd better rescind Obama's Nobel prize. (They should prise the prize from Obama's bloody fingers.)

Heh...no chance of that! It'd be more embarrasing to them to admit they'd erred and fallen for the hype of Hope than to correct their error and acknowledge to the world Obama's disgraced character.

SDN said...

"Except that 'these people' weren't named by congress where they."

That's right; FDR had an individual list of Germans and Japanese listed in the appendix of the declaration of war....